Published On: Sat, Oct 29th, 2016

Let Us Walk You Through The Ethiopian History Before And Now With The current Politics Part 1-1!

ETHIOPIA

Ethiopia has a rich history. It is the oldest independent country in Africa with a rich and proud tradition as an admired civilization that has lasted for more than 2,000 years.   In this activity, you will learn about and explore the history of Ethiopia and how it has impacted the rest of the world.

Prehistory
Some of the earliest human ancestors have been found in Ethiopia. Not only is Ethiopia home to the world’s oldest Homo sapiens dating back over 100,000 years, but also Australopithecus ramidus dated back 4.4 million years. Current day Ethiopia is part of the eastern and southern African cradle of civilization that is our universal heritage.

Animal husbandry has been practiced in Ethiopia for around 8,000 years.

Pro to-Axsum
During this time Ethiopia was involved in trade with Egypt and Nubia, before the 2nd century B.C.E

The Axsum (Axum) Empire 1st C. BCE-10th C E
The Axsum Empire developed in Ethiopia during the 1st-10th centuries CE. At the beginning of its existence, Axsum flourished and was the most powerful state in the region. The empire gained much of their wealth from trade of items such as ivory, gold, tortoise shells and emeralds with places like Rome and India. Axsum was ruled by the “king of kings” (negusa nagast) who ruled over the imperial system of government.

During this empire important historical accomplishments such the creation of their own alphabet called Ge’ez, stelae (tomb markings made of stone), and coinage were developed. Ge’ez is a Semitic language that developed in the region of Eritrea and Northern Ethiopia. It was a language of peasantry that became an official language during the Axsumite Empire. It is no longer a dominant or spoken language in Ethiopia – though church services are often given in Ge’ez. Stelae (which may often be called obelisks) were made of stone and used to mark graves and burial chambers. The most famous stelae of the Aksumite Empire was the Obelisk of Axsum in Axsum. It was taken from Ethiopia by the Italians during the Second Italo-Abyssinian War and finally returned to Ethiopia around 2003. These stelae were often tall and very heavy. The largest were used to mark the graves of royalty, while nobility would have smaller, less decorated stelae.

This stelae is a symbol from the Axsumite civilization

Stelae

Coinage was also a historical accomplishment of the Axsum Empire. They were the only empire in the region to offer coinage (when others couldn’t afford it or did not need it). It was a symbol of the wealth that they had gained from trading and agriculture. From 270-610, gold, silver and bronze coins were minted in the Kingdom of Axum, making them the first African polity to issue their own coins.  It not only simplified trade that occurred, but it marked the Axsumite kingdom equal to its neighbors and an empire of great importance.

King Ezana of Axsum (320-356 C.E.) 

King Ezana reigned as king in the Axsumite Empire from the years of 320-356 C.E. King Ezana succeeded his father still being a child, tradition states. He is known for his conversion to Christianity near the end of his reign.  Following his lead most citizens of Axsum converted to Christianity, making Ethiopia one of very oldest predominantly Christian countries in the world.  He had many successful military campaigns during the fourth century. He ruled a powerful group of nations that were included in the Axsum kingdom: Arabia, Saba, Abyssinia, Beja and Moroe.

Coinage from Reign of King Ezana

Coinage from the Reign of King Ezana

King Kaleb 
Kaleb became king around 520. In 523 he led an expedition to avenge the persecution of Christians in South Arabia. Because of this journey part of South Arabia was brought under Axsumite control. He also conquered small Jewish kingdoms in Arabia.  Kaleb allowed the Jews to maintain their traditions and practices.  As a consequence Jewish customs can still be found today within Ethiopian Christian traditions.  Moreover, there was a migration of Jews to Axsum where they formed the Falasha community of Ethiopian Jews, a small remnant of which remains in Ethiopia, although there much of the Falasha community migrated to Israel in the 1980s and 1990s as the consequence of persecution by the Derg regime (see below).  Kaleb became a military power and was a protector of Christians throughout the region.

Coinage from Reign of King Kaleb

Coinage from the Reign of King Kaleb

The Decline of the Axsumite Empire
The Islamic Empire began to build during the 7th-10th centuries. They took control over the Red Sea and much of the Nile River valley, which was at one time the trade route for the Axsumite Empire. This caused economic isolation for the Axsumite and forced them to move further into the highlands. This would lead to the decline of the Axsumite Empire. This isolation did contribute though to the monastic traditions of the Coptic Christian church. This tradition became very distinctive and often the sanctuaries were built into the walls of rock. Axsum was eventually taken over and the dark ages of Gudit begin.

 

Queen Gudit 10th Century AD

Queen Gudit is a warrior leader from Lasta in present day Ethiopia. According to oral tradition, Gudit was Jewish though this has been argued.

Gudit’s story begins when her family refused to pay taxes to the Aksumite kingdom. The king then sent troops to force them to pay, the troops raided her region. Infuriated, Gudit rallied the Felashas, her people, and lead them to the Aksumite kingdom to eradicate Christianity and the ruling dynasty.

She successfully overthrew the ruling powers, and destroyed all Christian churches and monuments. This would be the beginning of her forty years rule and the “end of the first millenium.”

Though Queen Gudit’s history survives primarily through oral tradition, there is documented evidence of her life as well. People in her region remember the Queen as a harsh ruler, mostly for burning churches.

The accounts of her ruling are incomplete. Many call this time in Ethiopian history the “dark ages”.

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Let Us Walk You Through The Ethiopian History Before And Now With The current Politics Part 1-1!